TurnHere: Local Video Network for Hire

It’s really the year of video on the Net, and local video plays a big role in that (and we’re talking about more than the big rats that were filmed running amok at the TacoBell/KFC in Greenwich Village). At our Kelsey Group Local ’07 conference, taking place in Santa Clara March 20-21, a high percentage of our speakers are already working with video in one form or another. Compare that to 2006, when there were almost none.

One of our featured speakers is Brad Inman, the founder and CEO of Emeryville, California-based TurnHere, a service that began in 2005 and has gathered 2,000 videographers all around the world (but mostly in the U.S.), renting them out to everyone from The Washington Post, for its “under construction” hyper-local effort; to restaurant groups; to Intercontinental Hotels, which produced short local films for each of its 140 locations.

Inman, who previously founded InmanNews, the authoritative real estate news service and conference company, says the key to his network is its ability to scale. Unlike the grand video production houses of the past, “there are no agents, there are no caterers.” Just backpack videographers who get paid by the job. Additionally, Inman has populated the executive chambers at TurnHere with several real estate and TV sales execs  people who know local.

TurnHere trains the videographers in the mini-documentary format  the average film is under three minutes  and anyone can hire them. “We rent them out. Other people’s sales forces” will pay their way, he says. In addition to producing the video, TurnHere has taken care of all the bureaucracy involved in making videos, including rights agreements for on-air talent, music rights, form downloads, etc.

Inman says prices for filming vary from project to project. But he says it is going to be more than the $100 that one service is tentatively charging local advertisers for video Yellow Pages or the $60 per month add-on fee that Canpages is charging for video  a rate that includes the cost of video production. The quality of TurnHere standards is going to require a much higher cost than that. Low-quality video won’t help an advertiser, he says.

One component of TurnHere’s business model that’s in development is a “short films, cool places” local video network that will feature local videos and featured businesses. Currently, there are 18 featured cities  14 in the U.S., plus Sco Paulo, Brazil, and Reykjavik, Iceland.

Clicking on San Diego, for instance, you can check out a short film on Carlsbad (where I live), as part of a series on area locales. The film features my wife’s favorite raw-food restaurant and the local Witchcraft wine-tasting room. The whole thing is a lot of fun  a million times better than the $50,000-plus video the city council paid for to promote the town. Based on what TurnHere’s done in San Francisco, it looks likely that the local destination sites could be paired with “local business” videos. Still, it remains to be seen whether usage will eventually attract townies as well as tourists.

While the city services clearly have some commercial possibilities, Inman says they’re currently more for demo purposes than anything else. No sales channels are envisioned.

Other Video Leaders at Local ’07

In addition to TurnHere’s Inman, we’re having a lot of other video-oriented execs at Local ’07. In fact, I imagine “video” will be mentioned at least once a session. Keynoting, for instance, is Nick Grouf from Spot Runner. Grouf will talk about how Spot Runner is using the Web to manage video production and media placement for local businesses.

We’ve also got execs running TV station Web sites (Michael Mathieu, Freedom Interactive, and Steven Barth, MediaSpanOnline); a newspaper exec who has set up a virtual TV station (Chris Jennewein, Sign on San Diego); a news aggregator who is melding video and articles from TV stations and newspapers into a coherent presentation (Elizabeth Osder, Yahoo! News); and a newspaper exec who is featuring video in his classified verticals (Ira Silberstein, NYTimes.com).

But the first place to look is probably our dedicated panel: Injecting Video Into Local. That’s going to have Fast’s Perry Solomon, who will talk about video search and its localization; YellowPages.com’s Matt Crowley, who will address the development of YellowPages.com’s local IPTV channels; and ShopLocal’s Bob Armour, who will talk about how ShopLocal is leveraging the viral video wave.

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